NBA Players Making Strong Bids To Be First-Time All-Stars

Vin GetzCorrespondent INovember 23, 2012

NBA Players Making Strong Bids To Be First-Time All-Stars

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    What do Jeremy Lin and James Harden have in common? They will both be NBA All-Stars for the first time in 2013.

    The global sensation and the Sixth Man of the Year are veritable shoo-ins at this point in the season. What’s more, in one of those typical sports coincidences, both will be holding it down on their new home court.

    They’re not the only ones who will be making their All-Star Game debut. So many more will just miss their first opportunity.

    The problem is, there’s so much talent, but oh so little roster room: only 12 players a team, 24 altogether.

    Many of those slots are already taken: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh and Tim Duncan are virtual guarantees. That’s more than half the roster.

    Depending on injury, you have Steve Nash, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki, too.

    For the sake of this slideshow, we'll assume those 18 players will be making repeat appearances, leaving six open slots. How many of those will be taken by first-timers?

    It won’t be all six, for sure, but let’s take a look at the six players who have the best shot at making their first All-Star cut.

    Stats are through Thanksgiving Day.

The Field

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    The NBA released the 2013 All-Star Game ballot a week ago. Fan voting will select the 10 starters. The East and West head coaches will select the 14 bench players.

    There are 120 players to choose from, 60 from each conference, “with 36 frontcourt and 24 guards from each conference comprising the list. Voters select three frontcourt and two guards from each conference.”

    Of the 120, 77 will be looking to make a name for themselves with their first All-Star berth.

    Here are those 77, listed last name first. Not easy to whittle this down to six spots.

    Then again, there are still three months to go before the mid-February All-Star Weekend. Maybe some of those “virtual” guarantees won’t make it after all, opening up the East and West rosters for newbies and veterans alike. We’ll look at those bubble players on the final slide.

    Afflalo Arron, Orlando Backcourt
    Calderon Jose, Toronto Backcourt
    DeRozan DeMar, Toronto Backcourt
    Ellis Monta, Milwaukee Backcourt
    Felton Raymond, New York Backcourt
    George Paul, Indiana Backcourt
    Henderson Gerald, Charlotte Backcourt
    Hill George, Indiana Backcourt
    Hinrich Kirk, Chicago Backcourt
    Holiday Jrue, Philadelphia Backcourt
    Irving Kyrie, Cleveland Backcourt
    Jennings Brandon, Milwaukee Backcourt
    Knight Brandon, Detroit Backcourt
    Lowry Kyle, Toronto Backcourt
    Stuckey Rodney, Detroit Backcourt
    Teague Jeff, Atlanta Backcourt
    Terry Jason, Boston Backcourt
    Walker Kemba, Charlotte Backcourt
    Wall John, Washington Backcourt
    Bargnani Andrea, Toronto Frontcourt
    Battier Shane, Miami Frontcourt
    Casspi Omri, Cleveland Frontcourt
    Chandler Tyson, New York Frontcourt
    Dalembert Samuel, Milwaukee Frontcourt
    Davis Glen, Orlando Frontcourt
    Gibson Taj, Chicago Frontcourt
    Green Jeff, Boston Frontcourt
    Harrington Al, Orlando Frontcourt
    Hawes Spencer, Philadelphia Frontcourt
    Humphries Kris, Brooklyn Frontcourt
    Ilyasova Ersan, Milwaukee Frontcourt
    Lopez Brook, Brooklyn Frontcourt
    Monroe Greg, Detroit Frontcourt
    Mullens Byron, Charlotte Frontcourt
    Nene, Washington Frontcourt
    Noah Joakim, Chicago Frontcourt
    Okafor Emeka, Washington Frontcourt
    Prince Tayshaun, Detroit Frontcourt
    Smith Josh, Atlanta Frontcourt
    Varejao Anderson, Cleveland Frontcourt
    Young Thaddeus, Philadelphia Frontcourt
    Allen Tony, Memphis Backcourt
    Collison Darren, Dallas Backcourt
    Conley Mike, Memphis Backcourt
    Curry Stephen, Golden State Backcourt
    Dragic Goran, Phoenix Backcourt
    Evans Tyreke, Sacramento Backcourt
    Gordon Eric, New Orleans Backcourt
    Harden James, Houston Backcourt
    Lawson Ty, Denver Backcourt
    Lin Jeremy, Houston Backcourt
    Martin Kevin, Oklahoma City Backcourt
    Matthews, Wesley, Portland Backcourt
    Mayo O.J., Dallas Backcourt
    Miller Andre, Denver Backcourt
    Rubio Ricky, Minnesota Backcourt
    Thompson Klay, Golden State Backcourt
    Thornton Marcus, Sacramento Backcourt
    Anderson Ryan, New Orleans Frontcourt
    Asik Omer, Houston Frontcourt
    Batum Nicolas, Portland Frontcourt
    Bogut Andrew, Golden State Frontcourt
    Cousins DeMarcus, Sacramento Frontcourt
    Davis Anthony, New Orleans Frontcourt
    Faried Kenneth, Denver Frontcourt
    Favors Derrick, Utah Frontcourt
    Gallinari Danilo, Denver Frontcourt
    Gay Rudy, Memphis Frontcourt
    Gortat Marcin, Phoenix Frontcourt
    Ibaka Serge, Oklahoma City Frontcourt
    Jefferson Al, Utah Frontcourt
    Leonard Kawhi, San Antonio Frontcourt
    Millsap Paul, Utah Frontcourt
    Parsons Chandler, Houston Frontcourt
    Pekovic Nikola, Minnesota Frontcourt
    Perkins Kendrick, Oklahoma City Frontcourt
    Scola Luis, Phoenix Frontcourt

    Photo: O.J. Mayo of the Dallas Mavericks

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

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    Whether he deserves it statistically, Jeremy Lin will be a Western Conference All-Star. He might even start.

    That’s thanks to the increasingly global nature of All-Star voting, enhanced this year with additional social media access.

    Now, fans can vote via Twitter, Facebook and Chinese portals Weibo and Tencent QQ. Tencent QQ is the ninth-most-visited website in the world, with up to 145 million users online at any one time.

    Couple that with the Asian-American vote (which made Yao Ming a starter when he was already shelved for the 2010-11 season), the Houston vote (fourth-largest city in the U.S.) and very likely the holdover New York vote (why not?), and game over. Lin is an All-Star.

    Lin is putting up a more-than-capable line this season, though not Linsanity numbers, per se. Still, the excitement he brings to the game, the following and his 10 points, six assists and two steals per game merit a spot.

James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    James Harden is off the hook.

    Harden is making his 2011-12 sixth-man season look like an off year. All of his important numbers are up this season—points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks.

    He’s averaging nearly 25 points a game, including 45- and 37-point outings, and has upped his defense, too.

    Harden’s play in 2012-13 has been characterized by USA Today as “unstoppable” and “absurd.” Yahoo! has said he's possibly a member of “the NBA’s best backcourt.”

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Joakim Noah is having the best season of his career, picking up the slack for a “struggling” Chicago Bulls team minus Derrick Rose.

    Noah leads the Bulls in rebounds, steals and blocks and isn’t far off in points and assists, showing an all-around game (and determination) worthy of an All-Star nod this year.

    Former Chicago Bulls coach and current L.A. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro agrees. He told ESPN: “He deserves it…I thought he was close last season or so; Jo definitely deserves it. Statistically, energy at that position.”

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    For Kyrie Irving, the 2011 draft's No. 1 pick and 2012 Rookie of the Year, the best is yet to come, starting with the 2013 All-Star Game.

    Despite being a rookie last year, CBS Sports considered Irving’s absence from the 2012 All-Star Game one of “the five biggest All-Star snubs” of the year.

    And Irving was having an even better sophomore campaign, averaging 22.9 points per game, before fracturing a finger that will sideline him for four weeks.

    There’ll be enough time for Irving to pick up his game and get voted in. He’s popular, too, due partly to advertising campaigns such as this.

Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cavaliers stink again, posting a 3-8 record as of Thanksgiving Day. That will make it hard for two Cavs to make the East team.

    Competition among the power forwards for the three available frontcourt slots will also make it challenging for a dark horse like the Anderson Varejao to make the All-Star squad. But he deserves a spot.

    The ninth-year “center” is having his best season, averaging 14 points and an outrageous 14 rebounds a game.

    Varejao is leading the league in efficiency, is second in total rebounds and has six double-doubles in 10 games.

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

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    It will be close here between Brandon Jennings and Jrue Holiday. Perhaps they can both make it.

    But between the two, even though Holiday is tearing it up in Philly, I’m going to give the edge to Jennings for two reasons.

    First, defense. Jennings is a monster. He already has the offense, though it’s a notch below Holiday’s. But his defense is ridiculous. He’s leading the league in steals by almost a full takeaway (an insane 3.3 a game).

    Second, Jennings' impact on the Milwaukee Bucks.The Bucks are leading the Central and making a bid to be the surprise seed of the Eastern Conference.

    Jennings has been on the All-Star bubble the last couple years. Now’s his time.

Honorable Mentions

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    Any of these guys might find their way off the bubble and into their first All-Star Game, depending on how the next few months go.

    Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers (18.4 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG)

    Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats (18.8 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.4 SPG)

    Tyson Chandler (New York vote might help. One of best defending centers in the game.)

    Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks (20.2 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.3 SPG)

    O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks (22.2 PPG. Most three-pointers in NBA)

    Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (19.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)

    DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (16.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 10.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG)